How to use Google Conversion Optimizer in just 3 minutes

New to Conversion Optimizer or perhaps puzzled about how to use it properly?  Give me 3 minutes right now I’ll tell you what you need to know– this should save you a ton of time with bid optimization and, more importantly, increase your PPC profits.

First off, Google’s Campaign Optimizer works at the campaign level.  Find it in your campaign settings here (the tab in green):

Then scroll down a bit further until you get to bidding options and choose “Focus on conversions”.  A big yellow box opens up:

If you don’t see that option available to you, it means that you don’t have enough conversions for the system to be able to optimize.  Google has lowered the stated number of conversions needed to activate this option, though I believe that you should have at least 50 conversions per month to make it even more worthwhile.

You’ll notice that the recommended CPA target is far higher than the actual CPA you’ve observed.  Go ahead and accept that default or perhaps go 10% less.  Don’t be alarmed, this is not Google attempting to get you to spend more.  Remember that the max CPA is not your actual CPA– somewhat like your max CPC is not your actual CPC.  There is one key difference in that your actual CPAs may sometimes be HIGHER than your target.  This often happens the first few days while their system is learning how to optimize bids. Don’t freak out.

Change the settings for each campaign and you’ve now saved yourself a ton of wasted bids, avoided needing to spend money on fancy bid optimization software, and increased your profit with a lot less effort.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Separate your search and content campaigns– Yes, you’ve heard this before.  However, you might not realize another reason is that view-through conversions are not taken into account for Conversion Optimizer.  If you haven’t seen the power of a view-through conversion on a banner ad, it’s a conversion that happened where the user saw the ad but didn’t click on it.  For every direct conversion (last click attribution), you may see an additional 10 to 20 view-through conversions, which means your CPA could be 1/10th of what is being reported. Because Conversion Optimizer doesn’t take into account view-through conversions, you’ll want to set the CPA targets a bit higher on content campaigns that have banner ads.
  • When you use Conversion Optimizer, your dayparting goes out the window.  See the screenshot below, where there is the gray text that says “Ad scheduling bid modifications are unavailable with a focus on conversions”.  I think that it’s silly to not be allowed both, since perhaps your conversion is based on a call– and your call center is open only during certain hours.  Perhaps Google’s ad server, as sophisticated as it is, can’t handle this yet:

We’re told by the Google folks that Conversion Optimizer does take into account a day of the week into the bidding.  However, we’ve not seen that to be true.  For example, if you run online dating campaigns, you know that your conversions are higher between 5 pm and 10 pm local time, as well as on Friday and Saturday nights.  We have not noticed Google’s Conversion Optimizer adjusts to bid higher during those peak conversion periods.  Instead, we see the CPAs follow a “sine wave” curve week after week.

As for whether Google can optimize based on placement on the Content Network, we are not sure but would love to hear your thoughts.

A final tip for you:  Don’t let Conversion Optimizer cause you to be lazy.  In the past, you could literally upload a few hundred thousand keywords in bulk— not organized in any way and with a list of just garbage terms– and then count on Conversion Optimizer to automatically sort through them to find the terms that converted.  That used to be quite effective.  Nowadays, if you do that, you’ll likely get hit with Quality Score penalties, even if you have an aged account.

An example of where you want to group terms properly is brand bidding.  Your own name will convert better than generic terms, largely because it’s actually navigation as opposed to true search (for people who can’t use the address bar and use the search box instead to get around the web).  Your branded terms on PPC are also stealing from your organic traffic, which also causes you to overstate the CPA if you’re going off the default last-click attribution that Google uses.  The answer isn’t to avoid brand bidding, but to put brand terms into their own campaign and not even have them on a CPA target at all.  Your max CPC on brand terms should be based on the cannibalization rate of organic search- more on how to do that another day.

Are our 3 minutes up?  I hope you got some value out of this article.

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